University of Kentucky Resumption of Research Phased Plan

The UK Resumption of Research Phased Plan (full plan pdf, 9 pages) describes a phased plan of resuming research activity at the University of Kentucky (UK). These plans place public health and safety as top priorities during any phase of resumed research. The phased approach to resuming research activity will concur with all UK guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic and will include new safety measures. There will be supplemental information related to specific areas of human research made available through online training and website materials (see below).

The following are guiding principles to resuming research activity that will be followed during each phase:

  • Social distancing (physical distance), defined as 6 feet of separation between individuals in a workspace, will be employed whenever possible when performing all research activities and during each phase. When 6 ft distance is not possible for some research activities, these activities must be undertaken for as short of a period of time as possible. Social distancing takes priority over the percent of normal research activity within any one phase.
  • Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfection procedures, consistent with UK guidelines, must be available and employed within each Phase.
  • Performing remote research activities, whenever possible, will remain as the first-choice option for all research personnel throughout these phases until further notified by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).

A. Definition and Justification for Phased Approach: We will use a phased approach to resume research activity, as premature repopulation of buildings to an unsafe level could cause a rebound in infection rates. We have chosen four phases, with varying percentages of research activity within each phase. This gradual resumption will decrease the likelihood of possible surges of infection and increase the time needed to obtain materials to resume more normal levels of research.

Phases of resumed research activity are defined in terms of percent activity and are as follows:

  • Phase 1 represents access restricted to only the maintenance of essential and critical research capability (15-20% of normal access). Social distancing guidelines, defined above, take priority over percent workspace occupation during this and subsequent phases. We have been in Phase 1 since March 20.
  • Phase 2 represents 20-50% of prior research activity, with new safety measures in place.
  • Phase 3 represents 50-70% of prior research activity.
  • Phase 4 represents a return to research activities (at 70-100% of prior activity).

The following table further defines each phase, with information to guide investigators through each phase. In addition, after the Table, we provide additional pivotal information to guide investigators in making decisions/plans within each phase and information on processes for resuming research activities. Percent research activity within each phase is intended as a guide to gradually ramp up research and to assist investigators to develop their individualized plans. Local conditions and state government recommendations will affect transitions from one phase to another. We have provided below examples of external conditions that can influence phased research activity. The VPR, working with senior university leadership, will provide directives and effective dates for phase transitions which will be communicated to faculty, staff and students.


  • Situation unknown and changing
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise
  • Testing limited
  • PPE shortages
  • Only essential research activities allowed on campus
  • Limited human subjects and animal research defined as essential on campus allowable activities.
  • On site staffing is minimal.
  • Waivers required to perform either COVID-19 research or for essential on campus activities.
  • Local and national restrictions becoming more relaxed
  • Plateau for COVID-19 hospitalizations locally
  • Testing and PPE shortages determine the specific range of ramped-up activity levels within this phase
  • Time-sensitive or critical research activities, graduate students close to degree completion prioritized as time-sensitive.
  • Activities needed to ramp up research (i.e., breeding non-commercial animals, restoring previously frozen cell lines, preparing research materials on site).
  • Seasonal data collection (field research) or research subject to external schedules.
  • Core facilities activity increases according to demand.
  • Personnel onsite only when necessary.
  • New safety measure regarding PPE, social distancing, screening and testing will be in place.
  • Principal Investigators (PIs) develop individualized plans for research workspace operations and activity using standardized template.  Plans go to Chairs and/or unit Directors, with final approval by Deans.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations on the decline
  • Testing capabilities increase
  • PPE shortages determine the specific range of ramped-up activity levels within this phase
  • Consistent with Office of Research Integrity (ORI) guidelines, currently paused observational, clinical, behavioral, population and interventional research ramps up under controlled conditions (e.g., face-to-face interactions in controlled facilities).
  • Special consideration to graduate students and other trainees.
  • Special consideration to early career faculty needs to resume research.
  • Core facilities open according to customer demand.
  • Attention to deadline-driven research needs.
  • New safety measures regarding PPE, social distancing, screening, and testing will be in place.
  • Sufficient testing capacity
  • PPE widely available
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations decline to low levels
  • Maintain social distancing, PPE and cleaning/disinfection procedures.
  • On campus research activities at prior levels, while following social distancing (e.g., shifts, hours/week, etc.).
  • Core facilities operational according to demand.
  • Building density monitored by Chairs, Center Directors and Associate Deans for Research.
  • For specifics on animal or human research refer to the appropriate regulatory office.
  • New safety measures regarding PPE, social distancing, screening, and testing will be in place.


Phase 1 Guidance

Required Waiver for On-campus Essential Research (Qualtrics)


Definition of On-campus Essential Research 

This information defines essential research activities that can be performed on campus (all UK owned, leased or managed facilities, properties and research sites). 

Several have asked for more information to guide you in decisions and to assure that social distancing is key to any research that is performed at UK campus facilities. Remember, our first priority is the safety of those participating in our research mission. 

Toward that goal, we provide the following list of acceptable on-campus essential research activities:  

  • COVID-19 related research
  • Activity that if discontinued would result in irreplaceable data or sample loss;
  • Activity that if discontinued would pose a safety hazard;
  • Activity that maintains critical equipment or core facilities;
  • Activity that maintains critical samples, reagents, and materials;
  • Activity that maintains non-commercial animal populations;
  • Activity that maintains critically needed plant populations, tissue cultures, or other living organisms which cannot be cryopreserved;
  • Activity in support of treatment interventional human subjects research with therapeutic benefit or where stopping procedures would cause harm.

This list sets a base level of on-campus essential research activities that will serve as our starting point for the next step, which is planning to return to normal (or new normal) research operations. 

This lab safety checklist (pdf) prepared by our experts in Environmental Health and Safety will guide you in appropriate operations if your personnel are on campus performing these essential research activities.  

Until further notified, a waiver is required for laboratories or research groups performing any of these essential research activities at UK’s campus. I ask the cooperation of Principal Investigators of laboratories supervising personnel to complete and submit the waiver ( delineating the above essential research activities that will take place within your program on UK’s campus. Once submitted, we will direct your waiver to the appropriate Associate Dean for Research within your College for approval and for information purposes.

Reference materials: slides on Essential Research (pdf)

Phases 2-4 Guidance

For Phases 2-4 of resuming research, Principal Investigators (PIs) are required to use the overall plan for UK Resumption of Research Phased Plan (PDF, 9 pages) to develop individualized plans for their research workspace and personnel. In essence, all faculty that have research or creative work as part of their research mission, and that supervise trainees or staff, should complete these forms and the required training. You will undergo online training on the overall UK Resumption of Research Plan to assist you in developing your individual research plans, and also be required to take additional online training if your research involves human subjects or community-based research. These offerings are intended to assist you in completing the detailed Excel template for your research personnel, workspace usage, and hygiene/disinfecting/PPE. After you complete this template you will submit it through our online form. See links below for all of these resources. Please identify your Chair and/or unit Director, as they will receive your individualized plan. Chairs and/or unit Directors will work with you to coordinate your plan with others, with common-use spaces, or for other issues related to your research and/or creative work. Chairs and/or unit Directors, Associate Deans for Research, and Deans will review your plan for approval.

PI Plan

UK Resumption of Research PI Plan

  • PI Online Training Module
    Log in with your link blue credentials and click "Course Material" at top to download the training, then answer the questions to receive a training completion certificate. You will upload this certificate through the plan submission form (below). 
  • PI Plan Excel Template
    After you've completed the online training module, use this template to detail your individualized plan. 
  • PI Plan Submission Form
    Complete this form and upload your training certificate and Excel file.


Human Research Phased Resumption


Environmental Health & Safety COVID-19 Cleaning Guidance